Thank you Mrs. Baudo.
We thank you for the tremendous job you have done for all of us during this past year. You took on what seemed an insurmountable task and steadied the ship as we charted a course of full, in-person instruction like no other school could. Thank you too, to Connie, Henry, and Chris for sharing you with us. We are very grateful to you.
And now, Mrs. Baudo, members of the board of trustees, families and friends of the graduates, my beloved friends, members of the faculty and staff, and most importantly on this wonderful day – Allendale Columbia School’s Class of 2021.
Well here we are.
Look around you.
Take it all in.
All this will be over in the blink of an eye. Your parents sitting there are saying, “Where did the time go?” You may even be looking back to your days in Kindergarten and thinking that it seemed like only yesterday…
I can relate.
I have been teaching at this school for 40 of its 130 years. I’ve been around a while. And yet it has gone by so quickly. Yes, I’ve been here long enough to have many memories. Some of you lifers, and others with almost as many AC years, have amassed Allendale Columbia memories as well, but some of you are more recent recruits. I should share with you that I relate to you as well. There are times I feel like a newbie, a bit like a fish out of water myself. You see, there are plenty of people, alums, former faculty, and families whose Allendale Columbia experiences reach back much farther than mine. I am always aware of the people who came before me, the people who set the stage and set the tone, the people who built both the brick and mortar facilities, and the foundations of learning and traditions that we, that you, each one of you, have had a part in.
In preparing this address, one theme that I considered led me to another. I hope that I can connect these two thoughts today. First, I hope you aren’t expecting me to go on about how resilient you have been during “these challenging times.” I hope you have already heard enough of that for now. I’d prefer to speak not of resilience but of fragility. The pandemic has made us aware of fragility, the fragility of life and of health. Our confidence in the ability of medical science to keep us safe has been shaken. Health care workers, despite herculean efforts, could not save the lives of many tens of thousands of people. Life is fragile. But that is not the only example of fragility we have encountered.
Harder this year than ever before in my career has been the difficulty of helping my students understand what is going on in the world. Starting each day with a discussion of current events as I have for many years, I not only had to help my students navigate a global pandemic, but from the very first day of school, I had to help them navigate the issues of racial reckoning as protests and the subsequent responses were right at their doorsteps here in Rochester. Peace, justice, equity— things that should be solid bedrocks of this world we share, all seemed so fragile.
Politics of a presidential election? The truth seemed fragile. And then came the current events discussion of January seventh.
I had to face a room of fifth graders who were full of questions that I could not answer. Had I been naive to have thought that democracy was not fragile?
I’m afraid I even have to say that I have been confronted by concerns that our humanity is more fragile than I ever would have thought. By our humanity I mean my belief in the basic goodness of people. Humanity- humaneness, kindness, consideration, understanding, sympathy, empathy, tolerance… I must really sound like that old fogey now. That gotcha moment we can’t resist – the “Watch them get triggered by this” tweet – slamming each other, scorching each other – canceling – counter canceling.
We are better than this.
We should do better.
Can these things happen here at our school? OUR school? But then, how can AC possibly be an island when all of this surrounds us and encroaches?
We hear often about the importance of traditions at Allendale Columbia. You must know how important those traditions are to me. Strawberry Breakfast, Blue White Day, family-style lunches. Those are all great, but they are hollow rituals compared to what I have always considered the greatest tradition and value of Allendale Columbia: civility and civil discourse.
Yes, actions matter more, but words do matter.
As you go off from here, please remember the lessons I hope you have learned about civility. You will find that you disagree with others. Speak up, dissent, protest as you should— as you must— but don’t do it to trigger someone or roast them. Don’t repay pettiness with pettiness, evil intent with evil intent.
I suppose you didn’t expect such sermonizing. Well now, how am I ever going to tie this all together?
Let me move on to my final example of fragility that leads to the other thought I’d like to share with you today. Here is the example. It is something that hit me hard…
Last year’s parking lot commencement ceremony was unique for sure, but I’ll look back two years to a more traditional AC commencement celebration. In 2019 we gathered in the Gannett Gym on a warm Sunday afternoon, but a dark cloud hung over the event for most of us. At that point, there was to be just one more class graduating from Allendale Columbia School.
Several weeks earlier it had been announced that we would merge with another institution. As it turned out, the manner of communication led many of us to see this as more of an absorption that would extinguish. It seemed doubtful that most faculty and staff members would be retained, and even the fate of this beautiful campus was in doubt. I sat in the gym and, except when I was listening in rapt attention to the commencement address being delivered by my friend, Mr. Hunt, I looked around wondering what would happen to my friends and to this place. The school I had spent so many years serving, an institution so valuable with such strong roots and fruitful branches – was it all really so fragile?
I would be retiring soon, but how could I come back to visit my friends, and was I never going to see this place again? Yes, a school is more than the four walls, more than the books in the library, more than my old classroom, but there is something deep-rooted in many of us, a desire to visit and to re-experience once familiar places. Places help us to reminisce.
I looked around the gym where we were saying goodbye to the Class of 2019, and I turned to look at the crowd. I don’t know if you ever noticed it. On the wall just to the right of the bleachers, there is a portion of unpainted brown bricks. Hidden in the wall behind those bricks is a time capsule. There seems to have been a resurgence of interest in time capsules during the pandemic. Many teachers assigned time capsules during lockdown. But my thoughts went back 28 years from that day, 30 years ago from now. It was Allendale Columbia’s centennial year, a year of many festive and reflective celebrations. Each class from nursery school through grade twelve was charged with contributing something to this capsule. I only recall one specific item that was placed in that capsule, the photos from my fourth grade class. When they were in fourth grade, the Class of 1999 was interested in this pressing concern. They wanted to let people of the future know what they thought about the Lower School uniform. They contributed two photos. In one, they are wearing Campbel plaid jumpers and navy blue slacks with plain white polo shirts. In the second one, they are modeling what they wished they could wear to school. 1991— you can imagine the neon, the jelly shoes, the oversized basketball jerseys, and hawaiian print visor caps.
However, sitting there that day, one of many unsettling thoughts regarding the pending merger, not as important as teachers and traditions – what would happen to that time capsule? Would anyone care?
Actually, we all know the answer to that last question. People DID care. Behind the scenes, the wheels were turning. A month or so after that commencement day, there was a collective sigh of relief. The merger was off. AC would stay AC. Relief, yes – but trepidation. We were aware of the fragility of our precarious situation. The rally has been remarkable. I for one will be eternally grateful to all of those who didn’t lose faith, who worked and gave, who offered so much. Many of us under this tent kept the faith and hung on. And Graduates, I am grateful to you and your families for sticking with us. We are helping Allendale Columbia to thrive, building on what is good from the past with the best of new ideas.
And what about that time capsule? It should stay there for at least 100 years, I think. That is the purpose of time capsules, to share with people far removed from current times a glimpse of contemporary values, interests, and concerns.
And why did I carry on about fragility and time capsules on this day when we are sending you off into the world from the safety of this nest in the birches? I don’t have all the answers, that’s for sure, but first of all, when things are fragile, we take care with them. We do things to fortify them and keep them sound, just as we have done together for Allendale Columbia. I can commit to do the same myself with the other things that I identified as examples of fragility – justice, equity, truth, and civility. I am retiring, but my work is not done and neither is yours.
Strengthen the things that are fragile.
Don’t take for granted that everything around you can easily continue as you’d like it to stay. If it really is important to you, be prepared to show it by your actions.
Second of all, although this may sound like something I would say to my fifth graders, this is my favorite part: you don’t need a time capsule sealed up in a wall. You have that time capsule right inside you. Remember when I said that the contents of a time capsule represent contemporary values, interests, and concerns? What are your values, interests, and concerns on this day?
Some time ago I asked you to look around, to take it all in. That moment is gone, but perhaps you’ll find you have stowed something away that you can recall when you’re as old as I am. While it may be as simple as the scent of your roses, or how warm it is under this big top, or most likely the feeling of impatience and wishing Mr. Northrup would stop talking— but I hope that one of the values or qualities you identify today is one of gratitude.
You know what you should be grateful for and to whom you should be grateful as you consider your Allendale Columbia career – that special joke shared with friends, grilled cheese and blond brownies made by a kitchen staff who care, that encouraging compliment when you really needed it, kindergarten naptime. And yes, I know, not all memories are happy, sappy ones. There were tough times too. Ones that are especially tough are when people disappoint you, or when you disappoint yourself. These are important things to keep in your time capsule too because they are often the things that we can learn the most from if we try to move beyond resentment. Can those hard memories fade or give way to forgiveness of others or forgiveness of yourself? Maybe yes, maybe no.
So, now I ask for your indulgence as I look into my own time capsule. You see I am moving on today just like you. There is beauty in this place. How fortunate I have been to teach in spacious classrooms with windows that look out onto the everchanging seasons. Many people who have worked here share my favorite tree – the tall sugar maple outside the music and art building, the first to blaze with color soon after we repeat the annual cycle of returning to school. Shrieks of joy as little sledders hit the jump they made just right on the snowy hill. The referee’s whistle and cheers across the soccer field. The students who made teaching a joy, and perhaps more importantly, the students who challenged me. Some of you are sitting right there. You made me think, and learn, and care. Teachers can’t reach students if they don’t care about them. Most of all, my time capsule holds gratitude— gratitude to the leaders now and those from the past who encouraged teachers like me to be creative, to try new things, and to realize that many old things are valuable as well. I am grateful that this was a wonderful place for my own four children to spend their years as lifers. I am grateful for my colleagues whose example inspired me through the years.
Allendale Columbia School Class of 2021, congratulations. Godspeed. I am proud to be graduating with you, even though it’s taken me a few more years. Enjoy the rest of this wonderful day. Store it in your time capsule. Years from now when you recall this, the memories can tell you what was important to you, what you valued. Are those things fragile? Are they sustainable?
Today in my heart is a feeling of immense and sustained gratitude.
Hello everyone, and welcome to the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2021! I’d like to start off by thanking my classmates for electing me to speak today, and I’d also like to thank everyone here for supporting our class throughout all of our years at Allendale Columbia— whether we’ve been here for only one year or for thirteen. I am so happy to say that, despite the pandemic, not only have we all graduated, but most of us are also able to be here to celebrate our accomplishments.
At this moment, I’d like to give a shout out to our international students who cannot be here today because they’re in their home country. We miss you dearly and wish that you were here to celebrate with us.
As a class, I believe that we’ve taken our ability to succeed through these circumstances for granted. Even though we may not realize it, being able to graduate during a pandemic, when a substantial amount of our learning was online, is an amazing feat that shows our passion and commitment to succeed.
I’ve been a student at Allendale Columbia since third grade, and many of my classmates have been here for even longer, effectively meaning that at this point, many of us have spent just about half of our lives growing up together. Throughout these years spent together, we’ve made a lot of memories. We tipped a boat over during our Pathfinder trip, lost our lounge several times a year for a few years because it was always messy, consistently had our all-around-famous lounge debates, which sometimes got a little bit too loud and heated, caused a fire hazard, and experienced second hand trauma when Victoria’s ankle completely dislocated during a visit to the Lincoln Memorial, which was followed by us being forced to continue the tour in the rain while our classmate was rolled out in an ambulance.
In addition to making our own unique memories, we’ve also taken part in a lot of our school’s traditional events. Year after year, we attended and performed at events that make Allendale Columbia, Allendale Columbia. One of my favorite events is Strawberry Breakfast, with donuts and strawberries, the sword dance and the maypole, singing and music, and the crowning and pinning of our senior class. We also have Holiday Breakfast, with speakers, food, and singing, plays, music concerts, forums, and Blue and White day, which many people are convinced always has fake scoring— especially because we all know that the blue team should win every year 😉
Watching each other grow up over the years has been such an interesting experience, and I am so glad to have the ability to say that I strongly believe our class is full of potential leaders. As a class, we’ve matured together, becoming incredibly passionate, strong, and charismatic in many different ways. As we’ve grown together, I’m sure that we have learned a lot of lessons together, and taught each other some too. One of the most important lessons that I can say I’ve learned is about failure. It’s very cliche, but it is the truth. I’m sure that almost everyone who has taken a Neeley class has heard him say, whether directly or indirectly, something like, “one bad grade on a test won’t change your future”. As someone who has failed, or nearly failed, their fair share of tests and quizzes, especially in those classes, I can say with certainty he is absolutely right. At the time, I absolutely hated hearing it, and it kind of sounded like a lie, but it’s true. Failure has taught me a lot of things, the first and most important being that you don’t have to stop when you fail, and you shouldn’t. Revisions and retests were a grade and life-saver. However, I also learned that sometimes, you can try and try and still not really master a concept. On that note, I just want to say a quick thank you to Dr. Spragana for being extremely patient and kind with me through AP Euro because to be quite honest, against her best efforts, I still don’t think I ever really grasped how to correctly answer a DBQ. But that is the important part of failure: learning where your weaknesses lie, doing your best to surpass them by working towards success, and remembering that while everyone can’t be good at everything, everyone is good at something. I’m sure several of my classmates have also learned and grown from not only failure but other necessities of life in these past years.
Believe it or not though, today is when and where our growth as a class ends. From this day on, all, if not most, of our paths will continue to diverge from each other as we learn where we want to go in life, whether it be STEM, like Eshmeron, Lena, and myself, law, like Ellie and Chinara, or even “to be decided”, like Jack and Myles. I, for one, am beyond excited to see what we do with these next few years, as they are the springboard to the rest of our lives. As we look forward to our next chapters, I hope that we continue to establish and maintain strong relationships with both new and old people. I hope that we find passion, drive, and commitment in our lives; academically, recreationally, and beyond. I hope that we discover what makes our lives more meaningful, such as hobbies like traveling, painting, yoga, hiking, and dancing.
Before leaving the school grounds today, I would like to thank the faculty for making our experience here as amazing as it was. Thank you to our teachers for answering our last-minute emails about tests the next day, teaching us through our incessant chatting, moving deadlines when nobody did the work, and grading late work that may have been turned in way too late. Honestly, I would not be surprised if some of us still have an assignment or two that still says missing in big red letters. Thank you to the lunch staff for cooking for us daily, having the utmost amount of kindness, and giving us anything we asked for, even if it was an entire extra tray of desserts. Thank you to the maintenance and cleaning crew who went the extra mile this year by consistently sanitizing the school to help keep us healthy on top of keeping our grass cut, floors clean, trees trimmed, and effectively, our campus beautiful.
I personally would like to say that I am extremely grateful to my family and Allendale Columbia for helping to mold me into who I am today: someone strong, passionate, driven, devoted, and ready to take on the world.
As the Class of 2021 leaves campus this year, I would like to remind you all to keep an eye out for business cards that we hid during prank day. Some of them are a little too well hidden, so hopefully, you’ll be finding them for years to come.
I only have one thing left to say to my classmates as I close my speech today: we have left our mark on Allendale Columbia, and now we’re off to leave our mark on the world.
Written by Mary Cotter ’22
Right before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, I was a member of the 9-10 Allendale Columbia TEAM+S team that included Aidan Wun ‘22, Harmony Palmer ‘23, Chris Smoker ’23, and me, Mary Cotter ’22. We competed in the Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics and Science (TEAM+S) competition, earning the title of NYS Champions! Our win would have earned us a position at the National competition, but this was cancelled due to COVID-19.
The TEAM+S competition encourages students to explore the field of engineering through problem solving and collaboration with their teammates. The theme for the competition this year was improving zoos. This encouraged us to delve into research about solutions to common complaints about zoos, the costs of such solutions, and the environmental impact.
Before the competition, our team wrote an essay responding to the prompt: “Your team is tasked with modifying an existing zoo within your state to develop innovations that would maximize economic, environmental, and/or societal benefits.” We wrote about modifying the Utica Zoo by planting native plant species, installing more energy-efficient appliances, and transforming the zoo into a sanctuary.
Zoo animals, including those at the Utica Zoo, have been observed as “anxious and bored” creating a “depressing” experience for visitors, according to Google Reviews. And it’s easy to see the reason for bored animals and bored children. Utica Zoo attendance has declined in recent years, and the Zoo has suffered financially. The Utica Zoo depends on government bailouts, but our essay outlined a few changes that could transform the Zoo into a healthier environment for the animals and a fun and educational experience for visitors.
On the day of the competition, we worked together on a 90-minute, 80-question multiple choice test. The topics of the questions were centered around the theme and required us to divide the questions based on individual strengths in math, biology, technology, and creative problem-solving. Then we completed the engineering challenge in which we created the lightest crane to lift the most weight to the greatest height. We were given limited time and resources to create our crane.
This competition was very intellectually stimulating and forced us to work collaboratively to find the best solutions to complicated problems. It was a fun way to explore the field of engineering.
Learn More About the Invent Center for STEM and Innovation
Posted in: AC in the News, Authentic Learning, Highlights, Invent, Upper School
On February 1st, AC students hosted their eighth-annual TEDx event, an independently organized event run exclusively by students and licensed by TED. This year, eleven speakers took the stage, including retired U.S. Army Colonel Mark Kortepeter, Adrian Hale, Kerry Dunn, and numerous students and community members. This is one of only three TEDx events scheduled in Rochester this year and the only one exclusively organized and run by high school students.
TEDxAllendaleColumbiaSchool 2020 was incredibly successful this year. We are very grateful for all the speakers and volunteers who made a large impact on our event by working hard in all the preparation that took place. Without combined team effort, the event would not have been as successful as it was. New experiences and ideas were brought out this year and many minds were opened because of it.
We were glad to hear that most of you enjoyed your time in your interactive labs! We were excited to have several willing lab hosts for our event. Some of this year’s labs included an intro to screen printing by Tiny Fish, A mini hour of code by STEM and Innovation Director Maya Crosby and AC sophomore Mary Cotter, and a virtual reality experience by Alejandro Perez. We are so thankful for all of our lab hosts for donating their time and knowledge to this year’s event.
We would also like to congratulate all of our speakers for doing an amazing job presenting and sharing their ideas. Speakers from this year were unforgettable and that is why this was one of the best years for TEDxAllendaleColumbiaSchool. This year, 11 speakers took the stage, including Adrian Hale, Kerry Dunn, Lissarette Nisnevich, Jack Jiao, Yueying Bai, Olivia Van Gemert, Autumn Flowers, Mfon Akpan, Andrew Brady, The Garth Fagan Dance Company and Mark Kortepeter.
And, finally, thank you to everyone who attended our event this year!
We plan to share all of our event photos and videos soon so stay tuned via our social media (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook).
The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, conducted by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, is one of the country’s longest-running, most prestigious recognition programs for creative students in the U.S., and the nation’s largest source of scholarships for young artists and writers in grades 7 – 12. Since its founding, the Awards have established an amazing track record for identifying the early promise of our nation’s most accomplished and prolific creative leaders. The Awards have an impressive legacy dating back to 1923 and a noteworthy roster of past award winners including Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, John Lithgow, Ken Burns, Robert Redford, Kay WalkingStick, and Joyce Carol Oates. For more information about the program, visit artandwriting.org.
The Awards give students opportunities for recognition, exhibition, publication, and scholarships. This year, students across America submitted nearly 320,000 original works this year in 29 different categories of art and writing. Student entries are judged on originality, technical skill, and the emergence of a personal vision. AC students submitted works into a sizeable Northwest Region-At-Large category, and the following students were honored with these regional awards:
Silver Key Awards, Photography
Matt Duver, ‘20 “Surfacing”
Matt Duver,’20 “Release”
Nya Hauser, ‘23 “Stuck Up”
Silver Key Award, Fashion
Sophie Diehl, ‘22 “Drop Crown”
Honorable Mention, Animation
Ava Gouvernet, ‘20 “Patience and Harmony”
Honorable Mention, Mixed Media
Elena Korte, ‘24 “Teardrop”
Honorable Mention, Drawing and Illustration
Vivian Osness, ‘20 “Landscape”
Allendale Columbia School was recently ranked as one of Newsweek’s Top 5,000 STEM High Schools in America. More than 30,000 high schools in the country were analyzed over a three-year period to determine the rankings. Newsweek, with its long history of reporting on scientific breakthroughs, technological revolutions and societal challenges, partnered with STEM.or to rank America’s Best STEM High Schools.
Recent AC STEM Activities
NASA Thanks AC Sixth Grade Citizen Scientists for Their Research
AC sixth graders just completed a month-long citizen science project through NASA’s GLOBE Program, recording more than 330 cloud observations. On December 17th, the class virtually met with NASA Education Specialist Marile Colon Robles who thanked the students for their work and reiterated the importance their cloud data plays in NASA’s on-going studies. Read more
“Girls Who Code” Club Represent AC at Rochester Maker Faire
This past November, Allendale Columbia School was a sponsor at the Rochester Maker Faire, where our “Girls Who Code” club taught visitors how to make brush bots and paper circuits. Read more
AC Robotics Teams Compete at Local FIRST Robotics Competitions
Four AC robotics teams recently competed in local FIRST robotics competitions. Representing the lower school in the FIRST Lego Robotics City Shaper challenge, were the “Wolf Pack” and the “Lightning Boltz”, led by AC faculty member Donna Chaback. Teresa Parsons, with the help of AC parent John Palomaki, led our middle school team, the “AC Aces”, while the upper school team, “Team 11779”, led by Phil Schwartz and Maya Crosby, competed in the FIRST Tech Challenge. Read more
Second Graders Learn About Cities by Meeting with a City Planner and Building Their Own!
Second graders met with Manager of Special Projects for the City of Rochester, Erik Frisch to discuss different transportation systems and learn more about the City of Rochester as they planned and created their own city, Birchville. Read more
AC-RIT Collaboration Continues to Thrive and Enrich Learning Opportunities for Students
Students in Math 7, Math 8, Algebra I, and Honors Algebra II continue to participate in a series of classes with RIT. Most recently, students conducted a color absorption experiment using RIT’s light equipment, and they have also recently learned about cryptography and the use ciphers to create and crack codes. Read more
Posted in: AC in the News, Authentic Learning, Highlights, Lower School, LS Birches, Second Grade, The Birches